Week 4 for us, 11 for Ho Chi Minh City

On Wednesday afternoons at 6 pm we go out on our street and “wave” at our neighbors. Some bring bottles of wine or beer. We have started to wear masks this week; some people have surgical masks, some use scarves or bandannas, one family has made a project of sewing pretty masks. If I knew how to crop pictures in this new version of WordPress, I would crop off the asphalt.

Our friend John Hutnyk in Vietnam says he and his family have been locked down for 11 weeks now in their apartment, homeschooling, but that Vietnam has had NO deaths and they’re doing tracking for all the corona virus cases. I have heard this information, about the efficiency of their healthcare system, from more than one source.

Of course people wear masks all the time there anyway, at least in Ho Chi Minh City. And I wonder what has happened with all the migrant workers; where are they?

Here, CA is in the vanguard (supposedly) with a relative low rate of deaths per thousand. But we’re restless under lockdown. Lots of ZOOM meetings, phone calls, people giving each other masks for presents, lots of front yard dioramas and treasure hunts. Our Danish tenants who were living downstairs have packed up and gone home to a country that has a decent healthcare system.

The Chronicle this morning (I walk out to the front sidewalk every morning while my coffee is being made, to pick up the paper edition which gets thrown from a car window at about 6:30 am) reported the Alaska Democratic Primary, which I had forgotten. Biden won about 55% to Bernie’s 45%. This is after Bernie dropped out, last Wednesday April 8. Of course, it was a totally mail-in ballot election, but still — people were voting for Bernie; a lot of people. Thousands of people are voting for Bernie, or Bernie’s ideas, even after Biden wins primary after primary and even after Bernie drops out. I’m saying that his campaign and the organizing that has gone on under that banner has been a mass education campaign for our country. Of course, it didn’t happen (or isn’t happening, since it’s still going on) on a neutral plane. It’s going on in the context of a fight; I would call it an existential struggle. In this sense, it’s like learning at work, labor education: you’re learning in a context where your life and the lives of your fellow workers depends on it. Just-in-time learning.

I’m buying vegetables via pick-up from Dirty Girl Farms at Benchmark Pizza:

This gorgeous array is mostly leafy stuff, as you can see. There is a lot of it in the fields right now and the supply line between the fields and the grocery stores is whacked because of lack of field laborers, lack of drivers, lack of open stores, and the titration of customers into stores (we stand 6 feet apart in lines, waiting for one to come out so one can go in). What you see above cost $24.00. But I saw a photo this morning of a long trench of onions in Idaho that was about to be bulldozed because they couldn’t get to market. Same with dairies in Vermont and California, which are dumping milk.

But there is also a lot of talk now about how to keep what we like about the shutdown and do a sort of reverse disaster capitalism, using Naomi Klein’s term. Oakland just dedicated 74 miles of street to local-traffic-only bike boulevards, so that people could use the public space of the street for distant congregating. Apparently people who can’t get on MediCal because they are just $5 over the limit (maybe this is Vermont) are now going to be able to get on it. Now people who are independent contractors are eligible for unemployment (although what is happening is that when they apply to get benefits, they get denied and a letter saying that the new program won’t start until next week, and many people do not understand that denials are routine in that program and they have to go ahead and keep applying.)

But these are just tweaks.

So last Wednesday Bernie quit — withdrew from his quest for nomination. People I know think that he made no mistakes whatsoever in his campaign, that he did everything right. But his winning depended on bringing out voters who had not voted before — youth, minorities, women. And apparently that didn’t happen (I don’t believe that). But if you look at what happened in Wisconsin this week you can see what a big lift that was going to be — expanding the electorate, despite gerrymandering and massive voter suppression. In Wisconsin, a state that has gone into lockdown, despite a sequence of efforts by the Democratic party to postpone the election (as has been done in some other states) until people could freely gather at a polling place, the state Supreme Court last-minute ordered the Party to go ahead with the election. Many polling places had been closed entirely — I read that there were only 5 open in Milwaukee, for example, down from 200. It was cold and rainy. People who were willing to take the risk of voting in person on election day had to stand 6 feet apart in lines that stretched for hours. And a request to extend the time to accept mail ballots was denied. Many people who had requested mail ballots had not received them by the deadline for mailing them in. With that kind of repression in Wisconsin, what was the expectation that Bernie’s campaign was going to expand the electorate enough to elect him?

Everyone has heard by now the quote from Trump — I actually saw him say this on TV – “If we allow mail ballots, there will never be a Republican elected again anywhere.” Or close to that.

People I know and talk with are afraid Trump will win in November. Biden has been invisible, absent, and never generated much enthusiasm to begin with. It’s not that the people who supported Bernie won’t vote for him; we will, sure, or at least those of us who decide to bother to vote. I’ll vote for him. With so little excitement that I’m going to stop writing and go clean up now,

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

%d bloggers like this: